As I walked past the window of a classroom, I noticed that most of the students had their eyes glued on the containers of food placed in the lunch area. With just that one sight I knew that each and every child in the classroom was hungry. It also didn’t take much of an effort to realize that they were not paying attention to their math teacher who was deducing an equation or the like on the blackboard. With their minds on food, the blackboard just looked like it had doodles scribbled on it.
There was a sudden bang of liveliness in the campus as the sound of the ringing bell was heard. Alas! It was lunch break for the kids and they greeted it with loud cheers. Hungry and excited, they came running out of their classrooms and assembled at the lunch area with a plate in their hand and a smile on their face.
Their mid-day meal was being supplied by the Akshaya Patra Foundation, which is the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal program. They eagerly filled their plates with freshly cooked rice and sambhar. I had a conversation with a few boys and learnt that they were having their first meal of the day.
This was the case with most of the children studying there. Much worse is that for some of them it is the only meal for an entire day. This explained their keenness on lunch from Akshaya Patra Foundation and not on the blackboard. Hungry children cannot concentrate and hence they cannot learn. The teachers in the school said that they never had to deal with classroom hunger after this charity feeding underprivileged children started supplying lunch. Thanks to this ‘food for education’ program, over 1.3 million kids in schools across 8 states in India don’t have to sit hungry in classrooms anymore. This brilliant initiative has grown from being just a noble cause to an effective means to fight classroom hunger, a major threat to the progress of education.
More details: http://www.akshayapatra.org/